Jonathan Noble: “The circumstances meant Masi played God”

© LAT Images for Mercedes-Benz Grand Prix Ltd

In a comprehensive article on Autosport.com, F1 journalist Jonathan Noble wonderfully explains everything that was wrong with the FIA’s decisions in Abu Dhabi.

Jonathan Noble wrote an excellent article looking at what happened in the closing stages of the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix and how race director Michael Masi’s decisions made him the man who will single-handedly decide who gets to be the 2021 world champion.

“The controversy revolves around the manner in which F1 race director Michael Masi handled the safety car that had been called out for Nicholas Latifi’s crash five laps from the finish,” Noble wrote.

“The procedure had appeared to be pretty normal as the pack formed up behind the Aston Martin, and track officials moved quickly to remove the stricken Williams.

“But then things deviated from the norm when Masi informed teams: ‘Lapped cars will not be allowed to overtake’.

“That decision meant that, if the race restarted, then Max Verstappen on his fresh soft tyres would need to clear five backmarkers before he could have a shot at snatching the lead, and with it the title, from Lewis Hamilton.

“But shortly after a delayed radio message was played from Red Bull boss Christian Horner to Masi, urging him to clear the backmarkers, convention was again broken as on the penultimate lap only a select few cars were told to unlap themselves.


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“Then, to further compound the confusion, Masi elected to restart the race at the end of that same lap, and not at the end of the following lap as the sporting regulations dictate.

“With Verstappen on fresh softs, and Hamilton on well-used hards, it was obvious which man held the clear advantage once battle resumed.”

Noble argues this meant that Masi knew he was the person that will decide who will become the 2021 champion.

“Ultimately, the circumstances meant Masi played God in being the man who decided which way the championship went, as it depended entirely on that restart call.”

Mercedes later protested these decisions, but their appeals were rejected by the FIA, who in part basically said that the race director can choose which rules to apply and which not to apply.

“This interpretation of certain regulations overruling others – and of the race director having complete free reign over the safety car and other aspects of the race weekend – could set an alarming precedent for the future,” Noble continued.

“Article 15.3 gives him control over the starting procedure, for example. So does this now mean, in an extreme case, he could start the race when only three lights are shown, and not after the five that separate rules dictate?



“This carte blanche approach from the stewards in handing power to the race director means that there is potential for races to be influenced even more by the decisions of the regulator in ways that are not laid down in the rulebook.”

Mercedes is now deciding whether to take the matters to FIA’s Court of Appeal, and the sport’s reputation is suffering immeasurably.

“F1 heads in to a winter now facing the prospect of an Appeal Court hearing, and, on what should have been grand prix racing’s greatest day, accusations from the public that the sport is rigged.

“There is also an element that it is deeply unfair on Verstappen too that, after a season where he driven brilliantly and ended as a worthy champion, that there will forever be a cloud over the circumstances that helped him win in Abu Dhabi,” concluded Noble.

There is much more to the article and you can read the whole piece here. We strongly urge you to read it.

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